New support organisation to help boost Harrogate

19 April 2017

Two charities have merged to offer voluntary sector organisations and communities in Harrogate and surrounding areas enhanced support, advocacy and networking opportunities.

The merger last week of Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) and the North Yorkshire & York Forum (NYYF) will provide greater support to voluntary organisations and communities in Harrogate, and across North, South and West Yorkshire.

The new organisation, called Community First Yorkshire, will provide a vital link to helping communities and voluntary organisations to enhance the services they provide to local people. Both RAY and NYYF had a strong track record of working to support, connect and represent voluntary, community and rural organisations and social enterprises across Yorkshire since 1937.

Leah Swain, Chief Executive of Community First Yorkshire and former Chief Officer of RAY, said: Making the decision to merge is a momentous moment for any charity, but all the more so when we have been a trusted rural champion for the last 80 years. The Trustees and I feel confident that by being part of Community First Yorkshire we can still be a strong rural support organisation for North, South and West Yorkshire – and now we can also offer enhanced services to the wider voluntary and community sector. I am really excited about the potential of Community First Yorkshire and looking forward to working with those inspirational communities, groups and individuals that do so much good for so many people.


David Watson, CEO of Harrogate-based North Yorkshire Sport, said: The new organisation will provide a more sustainable support system for organisations across North, South and West Yorkshire. We see the merger of the two existing organisations as a real positive for Yorkshire as a whole and Harrogate in particular, giving the ability to work both across the whole of Yorkshire more effectively and in greater depth, and giving more focus to advocacy and consultancy work, which has previously been less prominent.


Rural Community Council for North, South and West Yorkshire

Community First Yorkshire will continue RAY’s previous work as a Rural Community Council for North, South and West Yorkshire.  The organisation works to promote rural communities and to enhance the quality of life for people.  By securing funding, Community First Yorkshire will work on community development projects across North, South and West Yorkshire that enrich communities and the people who live and work in them. Previous projects include ‘Village SOS’ and ‘Warm and Well in North Yorkshire’.  Current projects include the soon-to-be-launched Harrogate Community Buildings Network, funded by a grant from Harrogate Borough Council to help Community First Yorkshire focus its strategic rural advocacy work.

Community Support and Volunteering in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and NHS North Yorkshire* have awarded a £1.4 million** grant to Community First Yorkshire to deliver support and development work to North Yorkshire’s voluntary sector.

The successful funding application was jointly submitted by North Yorkshire & York Forum (NYYF) and Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY).  NYYF has been the contract holder since 2011. Due to the merger the new contract will be delivered by Community First Yorkshire.


Leah added: By securing this grant we can build on the good work of the previous service providers in supporting the voluntary and community sector in North Yorkshire. We are ambitious for the sector and are excited to be exploring new ways of providing support for a wide range of different voluntary and community groups. This is a significant financial investment by the County Council and the CCGs who are investing in the health of a sector that they value as a critical partner in delivering their services.


New services to be offered by Community First Yorkshire,  with announcements about new services will be made in the near future.


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